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Coronavirus: Shops to reopen but five-mile rule stays

  First Minister Mark Drakeford announces the new changes to lockdown restrictions in Wales

New changes to the lockdown restrictions in Wales will allow all shops to open and some sport to return from Monday, but the 'five-mile rule' will remain in place for now.

First Minister Mark Drakeford announced the changes at the Welsh Government's daily press briefing.

Shop owners in Wales who have been getting ready to reopen their businesses, will be able to do so from Monday - as long as they can adhere to the social distancing rules - meanwhile sports such as tennis and athletics will be allowed to return.

But the controversial 'five-mile rule' will remain in Wales until the 6th of July, when it will be reviewed and possibly removed, but only if safe to do so, according to the First Minister.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

“The threat of coronavirus hasn’t gone away but thanks to the efforts we have all made over the last few months, the number of people contracting coronavirus each day in Wales is falling, so too is the risk of meeting somebody with virus.

“Given the progress we have made, we are able to take some additional cautious steps to further unlock our society and economy. This includes more retailers being able re-open their businesses, as long as they take measures to minimise the risk to their staff and to the customers who visit their stores.

“Our focus continues to be on the health risks of the outbreak, but we can now begin to cautiously focus much more squarely on the wider economic and societal impact the virus is having.

“We have provided a huge amount of support to businesses and jobs as they hibernated during the pandemic – now we start to take these careful steps to restart our economy.”

The next three weeks of lockdown in Wales will see a large change on consecutive Mondays, with shops opening on the 22nd, schools opening on the 29th, and then a potential relaxing of the stay local rules on the 6th of July.

Monday’s changes include:

  • Enabling private prayer in places of worship where social distancing is maintained and gatherings do not take place;
  • Restarting the housing market by enabling house viewings to take place in vacant properties and house moves where a sale has been agreed but not yet completed;
  • Lifting the restrictions on outdoor sports courts but social distancing must be maintained. No contact or team sports will be allowed;
  • Enabling non-professional elite athletes, including Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, to resume training.

The announcement from the First Minister also marked the end of the thirteenth week of lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic which has so far killed nearly 1500 people in Wales.

But not all feel the announcement has gone far enough in relaxing restrictions, with the leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Paul Davies MS saying,

“But while we welcome this announcement, it frankly beggars belief as to why travel restrictions are not being lifted too.

“Many retailers need custom from a wide area to survive and will go to the wall if they are forced to rely on local trade alone.

“It’s also unfair to prevent retailers from opening immediately, causing them to lose out on another weekend of trade, especially when they were advised three weeks ago to prepare for opening three weeks ago today."

The tourism industry is one that is "on the brink of collapse" according to a letter from the heads of the industry in Wales that was sent to the First Minister earlier this week.

Ministers have decided to lift the requirement to stay local on 6 July, provided the conditions allow. With the requirement lifted, people will be able to travel to tourist attractions across Wales.

The First Minister has today sent signal to some businesses and the visitor and tourism industry to use this period to begin to make preparations for reopening.

At the next review on 9 July, the Welsh Government will consider a range of specific options for opening:

  • Self-contained holiday accommodation;
  • Personal care services, such as hairdressing and beauty, by appointment.

Mr Drakeford said he had met tourism industry leaders on Thursday and told BBC Radio Wales this morning, "I will be saying to the visitor economy in Wales that they should use the next three weeks to prepare to re-open self-contained accommodation in Wales during the month of July".

"If you have a static caravan that has it's own kitchen or bathroom, if you're renting a cottage or going to a hotel that has turned itself into self-contained accommodation, there will be a clear signal from me today that you should use the next three weeks to get everything you need in place, and you will be able to start taking bookings for after 13 July," Mr Drakeford said.

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